Can sleep be considered a form of meditation?
The short answer to this question is No. Sleep is not a form meditation.
So how exactly does sleep differ from meditation? Let’s dive a little deeper and find out the exact differences between sleep and meditation.
What is the purpose of meditation?
Let’s start by first understanding what meditation really is starting with the purpose of meditation.
So what is the purpose of meditation?
The purpose of meditation is to train your attention.
And what is the point of training your attention? Well, when you train your attention, you take back control of your attention and thereby take back control of your mind.
Here’s an advantage to that. Your thoughts will no longer be able to control you as they used to. Instead, you will be able to gain control over your thoughts (at-least to a certain extend).
Now that the objective of meditation is clear, let’s see what meditation involves.
What does meditation involve?
Simply put, meditation is the practice of focusing your attention on to something (an object) for long periods of time.
Your object of focus can be anything. For example, you could focus your attention on your breathing, or focus your attention on the flame of a candle, or anything else that you want to.
Here are a few other objects on which you can focus your attention on.
- You can focus your attention on a bodily sensation.
- On reciting a mantra, for example OM.
- On counting using mala beads.
- On an external sound, for example, the sound of a fan.
- On any one of your chakras or energy centers (for example, center of your forehead).
The object of your focus should be singular, for example, you cannot alternate your focus on the sound of a fan and the sound of an A/C at the same time.
As you focus your attention, your mind will still continue to produce thoughts, but these thoughts will happen in the background. As most of your attention is focused on a specific object, these thoughts will soon begin to slow down.
This is because thoughts need your attention to sustain themselves. When your attention is focused elsewhere, these thoughts automatically slow down.
Inevitably during the meditation process, your attention will be pulled in by your thoughts. In other words, you will stop focusing on your object and instead start focusing on your thoughts. But once you catch yourself doing this, you can shift your attention back to the object.
This process of catching your attention and bringing it back to the object will strengthen areas of your brain that are required to focus better. This way, as you continue your focus, you will be less and less affected by your thoughts and your focus will become longer and uninterrupted by thoughts or external stimulus (for example, the noise of the fan or A/C).
So to reiterate, meditation is the practice of training your attention. You train your attention by staying conscious of your attention and focusing it on to an object for long periods of time. As your attention slips, you bring it back to the object.
Difference between meditation and mindfulness
There are various types of meditation, but all of them have this basic premise, which is – staying conscious of your attention.
For example, there is another form of meditation which is known as ‘Open Monitoring’ or ‘Mindfulness’. In Open Monitoring, your attention is not focused onto anything, instead, you simply stay conscious of your attention. In other words, you stay present.
For example, as your take a walk outside, simply stay conscious of the sights, smells and sensations. Allow your attention to roam freely anywhere it wants to but stay conscious of it.
Mindfulness is a product of meditation.
Sleep is not meditation – Here’s why
While you sleep, your attention is in auto mode. You are no longer conscious of it. You are not in a position to actively control your attention. Therefore, sleep cannot be considered meditation.
Meditation can help improve your sleep quality
The number one reason why people don’t get sleep is because of the thoughts in their mind. By helping you take your attention away from your thoughts, meditation can help you sleep better.
This is because meditation helps you relax. When you focus your attention on your breathing, you essentially remove attention from your thoughts. This means, your thoughts slow down which leads to relaxation.
This way, meditation can definitely help you sleep better, but sleep is not meditation.
Can lucid dreaming be considered meditation?
That leads us to another question. Can lucid dreaming be considered meditation?
When you lucid dream, you become conscious that you are dreaming. In other words, you become conscious of your attention. But you are not focusing your attention onto an object. You are simply observing the dream consciously. So this can be considered being mindful, but cannot be considered meditation in its truest sense.
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